Two members of a prolific illicit tobacco gang have been jailed for more than three years for their crimes.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers foiled a plot to smuggle thousands of pounds worth of illicit cigarettes into the UK when they watched Jan Wojcik and Pawel Pasnik meet with the driver of a Polish HGV on a secluded country lane just off the M25.

Both men were arrested at the scene on suspicion of tobacco smuggling offences.

HMRC officers searched Wojcik’s black Mercedes car and found £14,000 in cash hidden inside a compartment in the boot. A search of his home revealed a further £15,240 hidden in his wardrobe.

A search of Pasnik’s home uncovered 16,000 Marlboro Gold duty free cigarettes and £76,000 wrapped in a bin liner also hidden inside his wardrobe.

Seven months after his arrest and while still on bail, Wojcik was again caught red-handed by HMRC officers as he delivered 53,000 duty free cigarettes to a London address.

The cigarettes were estimated to be worth around £16,000 in lost excise duty and VAT.

David Margree, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Cigarette smuggling and laundering the proceeds of crime are both serious offences and. HMRC takes robust action to detect, disrupt and bring those responsible before the courts. These offences have a devastating impact on honest retailers who have to compete with the black market and on the nation’s finances with around £2 bn lost in excise revenue each year.”

The pair were charged with money laundering and the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty and found guilty last week.

Wojcik was sentenced to three years and three months in prison while Pasnik was sentenced to three years and six months.